COCKER-SPANIEL.jpg
Breed Group Group 11: Gun Dog Breeds
Sub-group 11-B: Flushing Dogs
Origin Country United States
Weight Males: 15-30 pounds. Females: 15-30 pounds.
Height Males: 14-16 inches. Females: 13-15 inches.
Other Name(s) American Cocker Spaniel
Breed Type Pure
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Cocker Spaniel

Breed Group Group 11: Gun Dog Breeds
Sub-group 11-B: Flushing Dogs
Origin Country United States
Weight Males: 15-30 pounds. Females: 15-30 pounds.
Height Males: 14-16 inches. Females: 13-15 inches.
Other Name(s) American Cocker Spaniel
Breed Type Pure
click here for FULL BREED STANDARD

Origins

The American Cocker Spaniel (ACS) breed has a long and rich history with roots in Spain, England, and America, which is where the breed was developed into the vigorous and refined dog seen today. Like many modern-day Spaniels, the ACS descended from the original old Spaniel types of England, whose heritages can be further traced back to the famous Spanish bird dogs of old known as the Épangeuls (the French word for Spaniel). Prior to the 1600s, a Spaniel was considered to be any dog that performed the function of flushing fowl into a net (prior to the invention of the gun), and then into the line of fire (after the invention of the gun). In 1882, the Kennel Club of England officially separated the Spaniels into three varieties based on size and usage: the Field Spaniel, the Springer Spaniel, and the Cocker Spaniel. The ACS’s earliest American ancestors were said to have arrived in the country along with the first English pilgrims, and it is believed that these dogs accompanied the passengers aboard the Mayflower. From the point of their arrival in America, the ACS’s ancestors were bred to be companions in both the field and home. Eventually, the American-bred dogs began to take on a form and expression all their own, only vaguely resembling their English relatives.

The American-bred dogs were much smaller than their older, larger English cousins. Indeed, it was the combination of the dog’s small stature, agreeable and eager personality, and tremendous hunting ability that made the earliest American Cocker Spaniels ideal house companions and exceptional working dogs. Eventually, the two lines became so divergent that they were recognized as two separate breeds: the English Cocker Spaniel and the American Cocker Spaniel. The recognition of the two separate breeds allowed both the English and the American Cocker Spaniels to be hunted in the field and exhibited in the show ring. Unfortunately, this recognition not only contributed to the dogs becoming even more dissimilar in appearance, but also unequal in working ability and purpose.

While fanciers of the hardy English Cocker Spaniels continued to train, work, and breed their dogs for the field, the newly-established American Cocker Spaniel breed quickly became a favorite of show fanciers. With an increase in popularity among this group of dog enthusiasts, the ACS breed won more and more acclaim in the show ring while hunting less and less in the field. Hunters and trainers of bird dogs were further discouraged from using the ACS in the field as show fanciers began agreeing upon standards that were not advantageous to field work and hunting. The showy ACS breed standard called for an even smaller dog with an exaggeratedly domed skull, shorter muzzle, and an abundant, long, soft, flowing coat that required copious amounts of daily grooming. This beautiful coat, which looks great in the ring, also acts as a briar and burr magnet in the field, so the ACS coat offers little protection from sticks and thorns. Eventually, the ACS was viewed as a companion and show dog rather than a working dog, since fewer dogs were bred to retain their hunting ability and more were bred for the purposes of appearance and companionship.

Today, the American Cocker Spaniel is not just a wonderful house dog and companion animal, but the breed also excels in performance events, such as obedience, agility, fly ball, and retriever trials. These little dogs’ love of people and training has made the ACS an excellent therapy and assistant dog to those with various handicaps, such as deafness, blindness, seizures, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The combination of their copious amounts of energy and love for all things scent has allowed the breed to excel in disciplines that include scent detection, search and rescue, and tracking and article search.

However, most important for the breed is its steady comeback to the field. Breeders and field fanciers have found that there are many dogs within the breed that have retained just enough “nose,” energy, drive, and hunting prowess to make surprisingly excellent hunting companions in the field (so long as the coat is kept short). A few devoted ACS owners, breeders, and bird hunters are dedicated to preserving the breed’s original purposes, producing dogs’ exceptional temperament, health, and most importantly to them, good “bird sense.” To help in the breed enthusiast’s endeavor, various organizations are working with those breeders, owners, and trainers to revive the innate hunting ability of the American Cocker Spaniels and interest in the sport among the breed owners. Dogs and owners can earn points, titles, and championships in organized hunt tests and field trials, proving to be a fun alternative for both the owners and the dogs—allowing them to experience the best of both worlds at home and in the field. After all, underneath the characteristic ACS expression and flowing coat is the gentle nature of an amiable “best friend” and the heart of a bird dog.

Breed Characteristics

Head: Mesaticephalic skull-type, moderate in size, and in proportion to the rest of the body. The skull may be somewhat flat to slightly rounded, but never exaggerated or domed. The brow is strongly defined. The head is chiseled, and without protruding muscle. The head is clean-cut, without excess skin or wrinkle.
Eyes: Moderate to moderately large in size, somewhat round, open almond, or lemon-shaped, and medium to dark brown (preferable) in color. Non-standard color varieties may have light-colored eyes, or eyes ranging from amber to hazel in color. The eye rims are well-fitted and well-pigmented. The eyes are never bulging. There should be sufficient bone in the surrounding orbital sockets to protect the eyes.
Ears: Somewhat long and lobular in shape, relatively large in size and set low on the skull. In repose, the front edge of the ear should be in line with the outer corner of the eye. The ears hang close to the face.
Muzzle: Equal to or just shorter than the topskull. The muzzle is full, deep, and broad. The plane, or bridge of the muzzle, is straight. Upper and lower jaws are equal in length, have good bone substance, appearing strong and well-developed, never appearing snipey or weak. The muzzle should never appear tapered, narrow, or long, but blunt in profile.
Nose: The nose is well-pigmented and black, or self-colored according to the coat in nonstandard color varieties. The nostrils are well-opened.
Neck: Moderate length allows for proud head carriage and good range of motion. It is strongly-muscled with a slight arch. The neck tapers smoothly from the deeper and broader body toward the head. The neck is clean-cut, without excess skin, throatiness, or dewlap.
Chest: Deep, broad, but never wider than deep. The brisket extends to the point of the elbows.
Body: Compact, solid, and of good substance. The body is never racy or refined. Width at forequarters is approximately equal to the width at the hindquarters.
Feet: Oval to round, compact, with well-arched toes and tough pads.
Tail: May be set high on the croup or just slightly lower than the line of the horizon. It is thick at the base and tapering toward the tip. Carried in accordance with the dog’s mood and energy level, often level with or above the level of the topline. They should never be carried completely erect, or gaily, like that of a terrier, nor lowered to indicate shyness or timidity. Tail may be left natural (preferred) or docked short. Natural tails are of a medium length, with the tip of the last vertebrae extending to the hock joints when held down. The tail may be straight or gently curved. Docked tails should be cut short, but never completely removed.
Movement: The Cocker Spaniel’s movement is efficient, effortless, springy, and energetic. The characteristics of healthy structure are evident: when moving away, the forelegs and rear pasterns should remain parallel to one another. When viewing movement from the front, the forelegs should remain parallel, with elbows and paws moving neither in nor out. From the rear, the back pads should be visible when the rear legs are extended. As speed increases, the forelimbs and hindlimbs will converge to the center line of gravity. From the side, the topline should remain firm and level. Good reach of movement in the front allows the forepaw to extend out in a line with the nose. The width between the forefeet when extended should be approximately equal to the width between the hindfeet when extended, indicating balance, good reach, and good drive. Dogs that exhibit any sign of breathing or locomotive difficulty shall be disqualified from the show ring.
Temperament: The Cocker Spaniel’s even temperament, good nature, endearing spirit, and intelligence make him an excellent family companion. Cocker Spaniels are friendly, charming, and get along well with other dogs and people if properly socialized from puppyhood onward. Puppies that are trained early excel in the field, making for fine flushers and retrievers. In fact, many breed enthusiasts are reclaiming the sport of upland hunting with their Cockers. Any unprovoked aggressive or fearful behavior toward people is incorrect for this breed.
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Breed Standard

BREED GROUP 11: Gun Dog Breeds

Proportions: Off-square to slightly rectangular, with length of the body, measured from the point of the forechest to the point of the rump, being slightly greater than the height at the withers. The ideal body height to length ratio is between 5:4 and 10:9. Females may be slightly longer. The body is well put together, with sturdy substance and medium bone. Males should appear masculine, being slightly more substantial in size and mass, while females should appear more feminine and slightly less substantial. Neither should lack overall type. The Cocker Spaniel should never appear low to the ground.

Head

General Appearance: Mesaticephalic skull-type, moderate in size, and in proportion to the rest of the body. The skull may be somewhat flat to slightly rounded, but never exaggerated or domed. The brow is strongly defined. The head is chiseled, and without protruding muscle. The head is clean-cut, without excess skin or wrinkle.
Expression: The expression is gentle, intelligent, attentive, lively, and endearing.
Stop: The stop is definite, preferably forming a 90-degree angle between the topskull and muzzle.
Skull: The ideal muzzle-to-skull ratio is between 1:1 and 1:2, with the topskull being equal to or just longer than the muzzle.
The ideal muzzle-to-skull axis may be somewhat parallel, or may be convergent.
Muzzle: Equal to or just shorter than the topskull. The muzzle is full, deep, and broad. The plane, or bridge of the muzzle, is straight. Upper and lower jaws are equal in length, have good bone substance, appearing strong and well-developed, never appearing snipey or weak. The muzzle should never appear tapered, narrow, or long, but blunt in profile.
Lips or Flews: The upper lip is thick and fits somewhat tightly over the teeth and lower jaws, giving a squared appearance to the muzzle. Lips and flews should never appear loose or pendulous.
Nose: The nose is well-pigmented and black, or self-colored according to the coat in nonstandard color varieties. The nostrils are well-opened.
Cheeks: The cheeks may be smooth or with slight padding. They should not appear chiseled, coarse, or excessively prominent.
Dentition and Bite: Forty-two strong, clean, white teeth. Bite may be level or scissor. Contact must be made between the top and bottom incisors. Missing or broken teeth as a result of routine work is not to be penalized.
Eyes: Moderate to moderately large in size, somewhat round, open almond, or lemon-shaped, and medium to dark brown (preferable) in color. Non-standard color varieties may have light-colored eyes, or eyes ranging from amber to hazel in color. The eye rims are well-fitted and well-pigmented. The eyes are never bulging. There should be sufficient bone in the surrounding orbital sockets to protect the eyes.
Ears: Somewhat long and lobular in shape, relatively large in size and set low on the skull. In repose, the front edge of the ear should be in line with the outer corner of the eye. The ears hang close to the face.

Body and Tail

General Description: Compact, solid, and of good substance. The body is never racy or refined. Width at forequarters is approximately equal to the width at the hindquarters.
Neck: Moderate length allows for proud head carriage and good range of motion. It is strongly-muscled with a slight arch. The neck tapers smoothly from the deeper and broader body toward the head. The neck is clean-cut, without excess skin, throatiness, or dewlap.
Chest: Deep, broad, but never wider than deep. The brisket extends to the point of the elbows.
Topline: Straight and may be level from slightly prominent withers to croup, or slightly sloping from prominent withers to croup. The back is broad, strongly muscled, and straight, yet supple. The loin is taut, flat, and level. The back is never swayed or roached.
Croup: Flat and level with the back, or gently sloped.
Underline: A slight tuck up is present. The underline is taut and firm, without any indication of sagging or excess weight.
Ribs: Long, well-sprung, well-laid-back, oval-shaped, never barrel-chested or slab-sided.
Tail: May be set high on the croup or just slightly lower than the line of the horizon. It is thick at the base and tapering toward the tip. Carried in accordance with the dog’s mood and energy level, often level with or above the level of the topline. They should never be carried completely erect, or gaily, like that of a terrier, nor lowered to indicate shyness or timidity. Tail may be left natural (preferred) or docked short. Natural tails are of a medium length, with the tip of the last vertebrae extending to the hock joints when held down. The tail may be straight or gently curved. Docked tails should be cut short, but never completely removed.

Forequarters and Hindquarters

Forequarters: Forequarters are always in balance with the hindquarters. Forequarters are well-angulated with well-laid-back shoulder blades. Shoulder blades are approximately equal in length to the upper arm and forearm.
Elbows: Elbows are close to the body. The point of the elbows is approximately half the dog’s height at the withers
Forelegs: Frontal View: Straight, of good muscle, moderate bone, and parallel to one another.
Side View: The forelimbs appear straight with strong pasterns
Pasterns: Never weak or broken.
Hindquarters: Upper thigh and lower thigh are equal in length, strong, sturdy, of moderate bone, and well-muscled.
Rear View: When viewed from the rear, the rear pasterns are parallel to one another.
Side View: Good angulation will allow the rear toes to align with the point of the rump or within one to two paw-lengths behind the point of the rump, with the rear pasterns remaining perpendicular to the ground and parallel to one another.
Stifle Joint: Well-angulated with a good bend to well-let-down rear pasterns.
Angulations: Angulation of hindquarters is always in balance with angulation of forequarters.
Feet: Oval to round, compact, with well-arched toes and tough pads.

Coat

Skin: Well-fitted, yet supple. The skin should never obstruct the outline of the dog.
Coat Type: The hair on the face, head, and front of the forelegs and hindlegs is short and fine. The hair on the body is somewhat longer, being medium in length, and may be flat to slightly wavy, silky in texture, never wiry, curly, or profuse. The undercoat is dense and protective. The ears, backside of the forelegs, hindlegs below hocks, chest, underline, and tail are fringed or well-feathered. A topknot may or may not be present. Profuse hair that is unfitting for a working dog will be severely penalized. Use of clippers is prohibited and will be disqualified.
Coat Color or Pattern: CKC recognizes two color varieties of the Cocker Spaniel breed: the standard color and nonstandard color variety.
Standard Color Variety: Solid colors, including black or liver, cream, tan, buff, red, or mahogany, black or liver phantom (black or liver with clearly defined tan points). All with or without white markings, all with or without ticking or roaning.
Non-standard Color Variety: Solid colors, including blue, white, sable, with tan points, or black, liver, blue, with creeping or running tan, merle. All with or without white markings, ticking, or roaning. Large patches or amounts of white indicating homogenous merle genotype/phenotype is undesirable.

Movement

The Cocker Spaniel’s movement is efficient, effortless, springy, and energetic. The characteristics of healthy structure are evident: when moving away, the forelegs and rear pasterns should remain parallel to one another. When viewing movement from the front, the forelegs should remain parallel, with elbows and paws moving neither in nor out. From the rear, the back pads should be visible when the rear legs are extended. As speed increases, the forelimbs and hindlimbs will converge to the center line of gravity. From the side, the topline should remain firm and level. Good reach of movement in the front allows the forepaw to extend out in a line with the nose. The width between the forefeet when extended should be approximately equal to the width between the hindfeet when extended, indicating balance, good reach, and good drive. Dogs that exhibit any sign of breathing or locomotive difficulty shall be disqualified from the show ring.

Temperament

The Cocker Spaniel’s even temperament, good nature, endearing spirit, and intelligence make him an excellent family companion. Cocker Spaniels are friendly, charming, and get along well with other dogs and people if properly socialized from puppyhood onward. Puppies that are trained early excel in the field, making for fine flushers and retrievers. In fact, many breed enthusiasts are reclaiming the sport of upland hunting with their Cockers. Any unprovoked aggressive or fearful behavior toward people is incorrect for this breed.

Faults

All dogs should be in proper healthy condition, free from disease or defect. Any departure from this description is considered a fault. Unless altered, all male dogs should have two fully descended testicles.